Archive for the ‘Types of Yoga’ Category

Yoga and Finances with Megan Rutherford

Posted on: September 27th, 2017
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

What about those recent hurricanes and floods in Austin?  Authorities gave us ample warnings.  There were graphs, charts, maps, lists and answers to frequently asked questions to help Austinites prepare.

The hurricane came at the end of the month.   For many, it was at the end of their paycheck. Some felt the stress on their physical body, emotional body, mental body and finances.

Would you have been prepared financially if your property were affected?  Thanks to yoga teacher, Megan Rutherford, students will have an  opportunity to improve their  financial life.


Create a better relationship with your finances

These are some of the scenarios to discuss with a financial counselor.  Megan Rutherford is a yoga teacher and a financial counselor with Northwestern Mutual, a brokerage company in Austin.

She is happy for the opportunity to help you create a better relationship with your finances.  Megan offers Financial Flow Workshop at Sanctuary Yoga.  The workshops offer an interactive group experience.  With mindfulness techniques, participants learn how to live a healthier lifestyle and improve their financial health.    During the workshops, the topics unfold to include  the needs of the attendees.  Topics may include:

The conversations you have with money.

Your relationship with money.

Mindful budgeting.



Your questions and feedback about the financial industry.

A Marriage of Techniques

Megan teaches different types of yoga at Sanctuary Yoga.  The different techniques help students in their journey.  The goal is a place where they are in the present moment.  These include Hatha Flow Yoga.  Also, mindfulness techniques paired with meditation.  The meditation could be seated and/or walking meditation, silent and guided meditation.

To get students started for the day, Megan teaches the faster-paced  Morning Flow Yoga.  The upbeat music and faster movements will get your blood flowing.  You will feel increased energy.

Creating New Habits

In this section, Megan explains why she teaches to create new habits.

“One of my favorite teachers here in Austin, Texas is Shawn Kent.  He has shared this idea with me and I love to share it in my classes.  And that is that we are a conditioned bundle of energy. 

A conditioned bundle of habit energy.   And, we have the right to choose. 

So we are a conditioned bundle of habit energy with a choice.  And, the choice is our responsibility. 

Responsibility is actually the ability to respond to our circumstances.  To our situations.  And so even though we are a conditioned bundle of habit energy, we are able to change that by mindfulness techniques, by meditation and just choosing to interrupt the story that we normally live.”



“During yoga, there is no reason to have your mind all over the place.

When your mind is floating out in space, focus on your hands to pull you into the present moment.  This helps by centering you back into the body.”

  1.  Bring your hand into prayer
  2.  Set your gaze just right out in front of the tip of your nose
  3.  Reach your hands up high and follow your hands with your gaze
  4.  Draw your hands back down the center line following the hands with your gaze



yoga students discover Austin’s Yoga Scene

Sentha is  from New York.  She chose to attend Megan’s midday Yoga and Meditation class.  Sentha wanted to check out the yoga scene.  She also wanted to help her friend Blanca discover yoga.  She felt that yoga is one thing to do to survive in a big city like  Austin.  This was Blanca’s first yoga class.

Why do people choose to visit Sanctuary Yoga?  Austin offers a variety of yoga studios. But here, Sentha shares her  three key reasons for choosing Sanctuary Yoga:
“The name itself.”
“The beautiful space.”
“The fact that it was a nonprofit.”




The Secret is in The Tree (Pose)

Posted on: December 22nd, 2016
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Finding Balance:

Sometimes my tree pose isn’t as still or graceful as I’d imagined it would be. I often look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And, that’s ok.

Linus reviving a tree, in A Charlie Brown Christmas

Ah, holiday season. It’s that time of year filled with excitement and celebration, the extreme sports of dodging shopping mobs and family conflict, widely considered as the most stressful time of the year. However you celebrate, or perceive this time of year, how do you find your balance? I’m going to let you in on a few little secrets. *BONUS: These secrets can be used any time of year.

secret#1: Make time for YOURSELF

You may be laughing at this, but it is possible! If you can’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else. Even a short amount of time dedicated to yourself can help alleviate stress. It may feel like there is no time to squeeze in another activity, but small changes can make a big difference. A small act of self love like a walk outside, or a quiet cup of tea or coffee before your day can help you focus (as opposed to non-stop rushing, ordering on the go, haphazardly spilling your drink, and enjoying maybe some of it).

The way for me to find balance has been quite literal, by taking time out for myself through yoga practice. Sometimes this means practicing a few yoga moves at home. Even during stressful times, somehow it isn’t always easy for me to show up to the mat.

secret#2: SLOW DOWN

Funny how to gain momentum, we have to slow down. When I have taken a break from my practice for too long, I can take extra care to re-establish my form in fundamental asanas (poses). One pose I will talk about specifically in this post is, surprise, tree pose! This fundamental asana is extra special to me for a few reasons.

secret#3: Trick yourself

Ok, trick, motivate, center, call it what you want, but the key here is to identify subtle cues to set your self up for success. What instantly makes you feel better? What do you avoid? Viewing what we avoid  with a sense of pleasure or reward can help to rewire our thinking,  to help build positive patterns in our life.

Sometimes when I come to a yoga session I don’t want to be inside or on a mat at all. I don’t always want to be guided. I just want to see the tree. Not the giant glowing tree in Zilker Park (which has its own charm and sea of admiring heads for that matter).  Not just any tree. The tree. If you have been to Sanctuary Yoga before, then you know the one.

Deck View of the giant oak tree at Sanctuary Yoga

Deck view of the The Tree. 

Tucked away between city blocks with glowing neon signs, billboards, and ever shifting construction sites, you will find the tree. The tree is infamous to locals, but curiously remains a best kept secret.

There is no mistaking the towering oak, propped up with a pole to prevent crushing the bright blue house as you approach the Sanctuary. Finding a place that makes me happy simply to visit is my trick. Ok, so maybe I’m going out on a limb to call this place a best kept secret. It just feels magical to retreat into such a tranquil atmosphere in a hustling bustling urban environment.

secret#4: LISTEN

Beloved yoga teachers I adore you. My practice would not be the same without you. Another way for me to balance my practice is to allow myself to learn from multiple sources.

I listen to my body first. I listen to nature for cues, sometimes simply just to listen. Sometimes it isn’t natural, but we must remember to listen to those who have taken a similar path ahead of us. While we all have our own private path, we share the journey.

Lastly, if all else fails to get you in the flow, a good playlist never hurts. You can reset your mood, unwind,  do most activities, (such as yoga) to any music that you love. It doesn’t have to sound like you’re at a spa! Here is one of my favorite songs to jam out to, to do Vinyasa Yoga to, anywhere, anytime. The energy of this song always puts me in a good mood. Sometimes to get away from it all I just go for a walk or run with some headphones.

“Dead leaves and the dirty ground, when I know you’re not around…”  -The White Stripes

beautiful fall leaves on the ground

Change is our one constant. While listening to music on a walk, I arranged these leaves hoping to brighten someone else’s. Are these leaves any less beautiful when carried away by the breeze?

These lyrics remind me that standing on your own can be empowering yet lonely. As our seasons shift our impermanence is hard not to notice. This is another reason I love that tree so much. And yes, I have hugged a tree before. It was glorious. So for me, to see a giant twisted oak tree that has survived in one of the nation’s fastest growing cities gives an extraordinary sense of comfort. Seasons will pass, but with balance we can stay grounded.

Secret#5: PRACTICE

We learn by repetition. Drop by the Sanctuary Yoga studio to get your flow on, or practice at home with the tutorial below!


tree pose selfie at dawn

Tree Pose shadow selfie at dawn, because, why not?

Tree pose, also known as Vrksasana, is a fundamental Hatha Yoga Asana that will help you find your balance by standing on one foot, establish strength and balance throughout the body, helps you find your center, and will leave you feeling grounded.

Step 1:

Begin standing on both feet, with your arms at your sides. Bring your ankles and toes in to touch.


Imagine a straight line running through your body, from the inner arches of your feet, through the crown of your head. This is your stream of energy, to help you find alignment.


Bring the palms of your hands together at the center of your chest, your heart center. Your fingers should be pointing to the sky, and not interlocked.


Shift your weight onto your left foot. Bend your right knee and guide it upward into your chest. Keep the spine long.Reach down to clasp your right ankle with your hands.


Place the sole of the right foot to the inner left thigh or calf. Be careful not to place your foot on your knee to prevent injury.


Tilt your hips toward the floor to stand taller,  forward, or back, or to the side to help your alignment. This will vary by your personal needs.


Set your gaze on something in front of you in the space that is not moving. This will help you maintain your balance.


Press your right foot even deeper into your left thigh, and your left thigh tighter toward your right foot. Imagine you are squeezing something between them , or that you are standing on a rock, holding an important piece of paper between your foot and thigh, over a stream of water.


Square both hips forward, to the front of the space. Keep your right knee from moving further outward to the right. Here, you may play want to challenge yourself by releasing your arms while holding the pose. Release your arms however you feel comfortable. Release one arm for “cactus arms”, both for a full tree.

Step 10:

Repeat on the other side. Remember to breathe.

If you begin to fall, it’s ok! Take a deep breath, re-establish your roots, and firmly plant your feet. Find your alignment, your center. Go through the steps again. Each side may have significantly different qualities or sensations. Hey, maybe some of you are more the Christmas Cactus type.

Cactus in bloom, with a bright yellow flower. A very unique Austin version of tree pose.

Cactus in bloom. A very unique Austin variation of Tree Pose.




Awaken with Kundalini Yoga

Posted on: October 6th, 2016
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

A man was alone on an island. Day and night he practiced Kundalini yoga with meditation, and chanted mantras to connect to the universe. One day a boat arrived at the island shore. A man got out of the boat and said to him, “You aren’t saying the words right”, then sailed away. The man on the island was alone again. He did not understand what had just happened, or what he was doing wrong. So he floated out to sea, until he reached the boat, and called out, “What’s the right way?” -original source unknown

A variation of this story was a teacher’s answer to my concerns during a Kundalini Sunrise class at Sanctuary Yoga. A true gift to the community, this free class is taught on early Wednesday mornings by couple Sohan and Siri Deva.

< Sohan-and-Siri-Deva.jpg>

Kundalini yoga teachers Sohan Kaur and Siri Deva Singh, dressed in graceful white clothing. Teachers are asked to wear white while teaching, which is said to help hold space during classroom sessions. A head covering is worn to enhance focus while teaching. Wearing white is optional for students.

In what first appears to be for an exclusive religious group, Kundalini yoga is for everyone. Brought to the United States from India in 1968 by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini is a comprehensive and spiritual form of yoga, described as the releasing of coiled energy at the base of the spine up through the seven chakras. The transfer of the stored energy raises awareness toward self realization. Through a combination of focused exercises, (kriyas), postures (asanas), breath work (pranayama), and chanting (mantras), it isn’t your typical yoga workout session in a trendy studio or gym.

At the start of the session, the couple sung gently in turn while Siri Deva played acoustic guitar. I listened to the words, fearful to mispronounce them. They shared that pronunciation was not what mattered, but intention. It is recommended to listen first.

My intention is to learn and deepen my practice (my life) so as to welcome and generate positive abundance infinitely. This isn’t about wanting things that are frivolous or just for myself.

Throughout this post, there are many educational links provided for you to explore. Here is a link from my first session with video of the exercises lead by guest teacher Cynthia.

The kriyas were then followed by a meditation with recording by artist Dev Suroop Kaur.

Embracing connection of community and awareness, I wanted to know more about this practice from a personalized view. Graciously, Sohan agreed to answer my questions in the following interview. May this serve as a stepping stone in your own practice, whichever way that may be.

How did you two first meet?

 We met at the largest Kundalini Yoga event that happens every year near Espanola, New Mexico, the 3HO Summer Solstice Sadhana Celebration. It’s a festival that includes daily morning sadhana, communal healthy meals, daily yoga workshops and camp community service and more. We were on a service exchange team together working to welcome and check-in new arrivals. It was fun to work with the team we were with and we spent a lot of time together. We also took some yoga classes together and did some partner yoga. This was while he was living in Oregon and I was living in Florida.

On a side note, there is also a 3HO winter solstice sadhana celebration just before Christmas every year in Lake Wales, FL. It’s a cozy 700 people, where as the summer is about 2000 people or more. We met at the summer festival in 2013 and were married at the winter festival in 2014, a year and a half later.

When did you first begin your Kundalini practice?

Mine began in 2008 when I was in a car accident. It caused some shoulder and neck pain that the chiropractor and massage therapists just couldn’t seem to fix. So my mom introduced me to some hatha yoga videos. It gave me a nice body focused introduction to yoga. Then my mother (who was already a yoga teacher at that time) mentioned something about ashrams she was looking at in her Sivananda yoga tradition. I had to google to see what that was all about. It turned out that there was a Kundalini Yoga ashram about 5 minutes from my apartment in Orlando. (The Baba Siri Chand Ashram in Altamonte Springs, FL, I designed their website later). We went together to check out the classes that March and then it took me a little while to go back, but I did and just kept going. The community is awesome and so are the teachers there.

What is most challenging about your practice?

In the beginning it was choosing one meditation or yoga kriya and sticking with it rather that trying to do 5 at a time and over loading my system trying to do everything. Right now I am working on focusing on a style of meditation called Japa. It is the continuous repetition of a mantra all day, everyday. Sometimes it’s done with a mala, but you can also do it without. It’s a practice that takes time and mindfulness to develop. The reward is that your entire being vibrates the mantra continuously and imbues your whole vibration with this energy that can help you when you need it.

What keeps you practicing?

It’s just something I do everyday, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. While that makes it sound mundane, it actually describes how essential the practice is to my life. I can feel the difference if I don’t practice everyday and so there is no question or decision. It’s like having dirty teeth all day, only it’s a dirty mind and energy field. Some folks in the community call it mental floss or a mind shower.

There’s also the impetus to bring the community together more and more. Kundalini yoga is a special practice and it is all thanks to the community. We share a special spice tea called yogi tea after most classes and have time to chat with everyone. The community gets together for special sadhanas to celebrate and potlucks to hang-out or to do clothing swaps and different things. It’s a lot of fun to spend time with folks who are on a spiritual path and have the continued support of others who live a like minded life. Make no mistake, Kundalini yoga is a lifestyle well beyond the practice of meditation and yoga. It supports your healthy life if you choose to.

Do you have a favorite mantra you would like to share?

If it only were that simple. Currently I am working with the mantra Ang Sang Wahe Guru. It means that the Divine Essence of All is vibrating in every limb and cell of my being.

The information below is from

Translation: The dynamic, loving energy of the Infinite Source of All is dancing within my every cell, and is present in my every limb. My individual consciousness merges with the Universal consciousness.

More Information: Ang is ‘a part’. Sang is ‘in every,’ or ‘with every’. Wahe is ‘the indescribable living ecstasy of Infinite Being’. Guru is ‘the knowledge that transforms your mind, emotion and essence.’ The whole phrase means, “The Infinite Being, God, is with me, and vibrates in every molecule and cell of my being.”

This mantra expresses a universal truth. Repeating it creates a thought, which gradually guides the psyche to adjust itself. It re-connects every fragmented projection of the psyche, each separated part of the body, and synchronizes the finite sense of self to the Infinite Oneness. This act of rejoining the separated parts is the quintessential act of healing. Under attack, under war, under the pressures of fear, this meditation keeps us together, conscious, and ready to act. It brings the inner peacefulness that comes only from the touch and scope of spirit.- Gurucharan Singh, Director of Kundalini Research Institute

Anything else you would like to share:

Anyone is welcome to the morning practice. You can do as much or as little as you want or can and visualize the rest. Part of the benefit of sadhana is that you get there and the group energy helps you along even when the practice isn’t perfect. That’s why it’s practice! Any donations to the Amala foundation on our behalf are wonderful because we are so grateful that Sanctuary Yoga lets us use the space to offer this free class to the whole Austin community.

These are links I share with everyone about the morning practices and Kundalini Yoga.

More Information on Kundalini Morning Sadhana:
Sadhana Mantras:

Japji App for study:
Live stream daily sadhana from Millis, MA Ashram:

We have a ton of videos on Youtube that are full meditations and kundalini yoga kriyas for people to practice with. There is one that is the heart beat meditation for beginners, but the magnetic field and heart center kriya is probably the most popular. That, or the new lungs and circulation.

This facebook group is announcements about all Kundalini yoga sadhanas in Austin

More about Sohan and Siri Deva here:


Let’s Get Real | Yoga for Connection

Posted on: March 30th, 2016
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Connection starts with you. You can be a teacher. You can be a friend. Your stories can transform, heal, comfort and help others grow. Your story matters. Share your story and connect to others by becoming a Yogi Blogger.


Sanctuary Yoga is about community. Authenticity builds connection. In order to make yoga more accessible, we offer many ways to get involved, including blogging for unlimited yoga. This yoga trade program has allowed many individuals to deepen their practice by sharing their story, whether by exploring something they learned in class or within their own personal practice. This aspect of our studio not only builds community but cultivates a culture of authenticity that shows people that it’s okay to be vulnerable and real. Everyone has a different yoga practice because everyone has a different body and life experience.

Why share my story?

In our culture, we typically rush to and from yoga class without saying a word to anyone in the studio. Talking about our experiences in class seems to go against the very practice we’ve been taught. Yoga is about drawing inward. What happens in yoga class stays in yoga class. The studio is a safe space for you to find stillness and connect with yourself. Keep in mind everyone else is probably there for some of the same reasons you are. Everyone wants to be healthy, change, grow, and improve. Everyone has deep hurts and hangups.

Many of you have probably watched the TED Talk of Brene Brown speaking about vulnerability. If you have not, we encourage you to do so. Brene shows us that vulnerability encourages connection. Sometimes we need to move past the screen and seek out quality time for deep conversation. We find ourselves surrounded by many connections, but still feel isolated and alone. The willingness to share who we are, our struggles past and present, enables us to connect with others who share our experiences and sentiments. It transcends the imaginary walls we’ve built around ourselves to keep everything looking neat, tidy, pretty.

Sharing your experience is powerful because it not only encourages connection, but it can be healing and comforting to you and others. As a yoga studio, we strive to hold a space for our students to be who they are, wherever they are at in their life. We invite you to sit with the emotions or experiences that are on your heart and mind and use your breath and movement to be present as we move through the class. We challenge you to look at the places where you need to let go and free yourself to feel, breathe, and move. We want you to feel safe to just be you.

“As a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were… You have to absolutely do that for connection.”

–Brene Brown

If you are interested in reading other perspectives or experiences related to yoga, check out this list of yoga blogs from all over the U.S.







Private Yoga Instruction | Start Where You Are

Posted on: March 29th, 2016
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


Are you looking to get more out of your yoga practice? Sanctuary is now offering private yoga instruction to invite students to deepen their practice by working one-on-one with some of Austin’s best yoga teachers.

All of our teachers have different backgrounds as unique as each student in order to better serve our community. We offer these private sessions in the comfort of a quiet space above the studio, surrounded by a canopy of trees.


Life happens. Whether you are a new or experienced yogi, you may have obstacles within your body and your mind, perhaps from a difficult experience or injury. It can be hard to know how to modify your physical practice or learn how to quiet your mind without the help of a guide. Private yoga instruction will give you the tools to start where you are.

Benefits of Private Yoga Instruction:

  1. Awareness: Often times we go through the motions of yoga class without recognizing what is actually happening in our bodies. If it feels good, we keep moving. If it doesn’t feel good, we back off. This is just brushing the surface. When you practice alongside your teacher, you can get feedback about how you’re moving and learn ways to move more consciously, mindfully through your practice.
  2. Anatomy: Hopefully you are not currently dealing with any injuries, but as you get older, your likelihood to have issues in your body increases. That being said, the more you know, the better! Our teachers can teach you alignment principals and help you to learn to modify your practice according to what your body needs. Your practice will change as life changes, so understanding the inner-workings of your body is important to help you know when to back off and know when to challenge yourself. Private yoga instruction is also a fantastic way to learn what to do with injuries and stress.
  3. Tools: Have you ever wanted to develop an home practice? Learn sequences that you can take with you that will help you build towards that inversion you’ve been working towards. Want to learn how to do restorative yoga at home? Learn poses to calm your nervous system that you can practice after work. It’s a teacher’s job to give students to tools that enable and empower students to be successful in their practice. Want to learn how to meditate? We’ll guide you through it and give you tips along the way!

Your yoga practice has the potential to keep you well and sane during some of the most stressful times. Your practice can help ground you and show you where you’re stuck. Having the tools and knowledge will help you to know when to chill out and when to challenge yourself, on and off the mat. Our yoga teachers want you to succeed, whether it’s learning to do a hand stand or learning to relax.

Start where you are! Register online today!

Book Private Yoga Session

Wash Away the Day | Late Night Restorative Yoga

Posted on: March 11th, 2016
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

We need restorative yoga. Rarely do we pause between tasks to stretch our bodies and sit silently without the pressure of our many obligations. Throughout the day we scatter our energy, finding our minds and bodies drained while still worrying about what’s left on the “to-do” list.

When practicing restorative – or yin – yoga, we position ourselves in a place to let go and receive. Our brains may not be actively thinking, but our body is still processing. All of the information, memories and thoughts from the day dissipate as the body stretches our deep muscle tissues into a relaxed state. While there are some things that need to be discussed and picked apart through conversation, others require space; we must create distance from the day’s events.

How is restorative yoga different from other yoga classes?

In vinyasa, we move with our breath through each posture, actively stretching muscles and building strength. In restorative yoga, we are still stretching the muscles, but we are doing so passively. Passive stretching can only happen when the entire body is relaxed. Focusing on the breath to quiet the mind also calms the physical body. As the muscles ease into stillness, the teacher guides you through a series of postures designed to unbind tightened muscle tissue in areas such as the hips, lower back, and chest and shoulders. Using the support of pillows and blankets, we help you find the most comfortable position to receive and release.

Practicing restorative yoga before bed is extremely beneficial for preparing the mind and body for rest. We’re offering this late night class as a space for you to be filled with peace and to release any remaining tension in your body and your mind. If you are looking to open up in some of the tighter places of your body, this class is fantastic for deep stretching. Though you may not feel the sensations in your relaxed state, you will open up deep muscle tissues that cannot be accessed in an active yoga class.

So come wash away the day and ease into stillness. Your body will thank you for it.

Class offered every Wednesday from 10:30pm – 11:30pm

Register for Class Here


Benefits of Postnatal Yoga Classes

Posted on: May 12th, 2015
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

“No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you, after all, you’re the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside.”


Any parent can tell you that giving birth and raising a child is no easy task. Despite the beautiful rewards that come from being a parent, adults need just as much love and care as children do so that they can better parent and heal their own bodies.

Our postnatal classes help support the female body’s recovery after birth. Rebuilding the pelvic floor and core, stretching tired bodies, and relaxation is what new mothers, and even fathers, can expect. These classes are not only designed for moms to bond with their babies, but also to connect with other new mothers who come to practice yoga in a supportive community environment.

“I think one of the more powerful things gained from mom and baby classes is a sense of community, a group of people you want to come see week after week even on those rough weeks when no one’s been sleeping and your household has erupted into streams of tears, teeth, and piles of unwashed laundry. From a physical standpoint, I think moms gain a sense of peacefulness when not all feels peaceful, and a sense of strength where strength is needed most: rehabilitating the pelvic floor, strengthening the spine and the deep core, keeping the legs strong, the ankles flexible, and helping the shoulders and upper spine to open and release.” ~ Mercedes Cooper (Mother and Sanctuary Yoga instructor).


“I think the beginning of motherhood can be a very isolating time for many new moms. It is a time of transition: fear, excitement, exhaustion, and joy. It is so important for women to feel like they can be surrounded by other women who are going through a similar time in their lives. To take it one step further, the physical practice of yoga combined with the emotional support of other women can be truly beneficial for postpartum depression. It is definitely more than just a workout, it is a time of connection to a woman’s self and to other women.” ~ Allie Marie Burnitt (Postnatal instructor at Sanctuary Yoga).

Every Wednesday from 9am to 10am we hold a Donation Postnatal with Baby Yoga class and every Thursday at the same time, we hold a Donation Parent and Toddler Yoga class. Postnatal with baby classes are appropriate for women four to six weeks postpartum. Doctor’s approval recommended and infants should be pre-crawlers. For parent and toddler classes, please bring a blanket for your child and any toys they are OK with sharing. Class is meant for parents and mobile children around 2 years old and younger.


The Benefits Of Restorative Yoga

Posted on: March 5th, 2015
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

How Yoga Works:
The Benefits of a Restorative Yoga Practice

Restorative Yoga

How I Came to Yoga

Like many modern yogis, I came to yoga with a tenacious desire to move my body in cool ways. I wanted to sweat. I wanted twist and turn. I wanted to flow and jump and go upside down and fly and play and all of those words that get thrown around in the modern yoga class. But I also came to yoga with this inherent idea that I wanted to change in some way.

Many of us come to yoga because we think of yoga and we think: relaxing, peaceful, calm. Seared in our minds is the idea of the yogi walking around in harem pants and mala beads burning sage to waft away the bad energies. This yogi we imagine is so foreign and so inaccessible to us and yet we see something in them that we want. It’s likely that air of calm.

I saw these things: the twisty, turny, bendy, upside-downy yogi and the calm, regal, peaceful yogi and I thought, “Well then, that’s how you do it.” So I went to my power vinyasa classes and I sweated and panted and huffed and puffed. I worked so hard to get my chaturanga down and to float my thighs off the ground in upward dog. Eventually I practiced so much that I was able to do these things effortlessly and I felt weightless in my practice.

Okay. I got the movements down, but where was the peace?  I would finish my practice and feel so good, like I was a wet cloth that had just been wrung out. But I couldn’t say it felt any different than when I would go for a run. It certainly calmed me down but I didn’t receive the illusive instant-peace and yogi attitude. I knew there had to be more. This type of yoga helped me get into my body but I wanted to get out of my mind. I still wanted to change.

In my studies through yoga therapy I’ve now made sense of my early experiences with yoga. I understand how I was finally able to achieve the benefits of yoga.


The Benefits of Yoga

Studies have shown that the benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, decreased levels of anxiety and depression, lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, and lower levels of cortisol (the infamous stress hormone.) Yoga can even help reduce the effects of traumatic experiences like PTSD. Whether it’s helping a heart patient recover through the Cornish method which incorporates yogic practices such as posture, breathing exercises and meditation or whether it’s helping a person with severe anxiety to see a reduction in the amount of panic attacks, we hear of the benefits of yoga all the time.

But here’s the catch: you do not get all of the benefits of yoga if your heart rate increases. “What?!”  Yeah. That was me when I learned this. But it makes sense. Here’s why.


How Yoga Works

Yoga helps lower your blood pressure and release cortisol by accessing your parasympathetic nervous system. As humans our nervous system operates in two, very simple modes: sympathetic and parasympathetic responses.

Sympathetic responses are in charge of our “fight-or-flight” mechanism and they prepare the body for stressful and emergency situations. It increases our heart rate and muscular strength, dilates our pupils and even makes our hair stand on end. More simply it’s that “I need to be at work in 5 minutes and I’m stuck in traffic,” feeling. Or the “I’m alone at home and I’m pretty sure I heard a noise,” feeling.

Our parasympathetic responses are in charge of our body in more ordinary situations like watching TV or taking a shower. It conserves and restores. It slows down the heart rate and decreases blood pressure and is in charge of functions like digestion. This is that “Ahh, I’m on the beach with no worry in the world,” feeling.

Think of how many times you have the “stuck in traffic feeling,” in a day. Now think about how many times you have the “ahh, no worries,” feeling in a day. It’s likely that you more often than not feel stuck in traffic significantly more than you feel like your hanging out on the beach.

One could even argue that in today’s world we are in fight-or-flight mode all the time. (Though we are not actually- we’re still digesting and sleeping- it can certainly feel like it.) The constant level of stress, noise, and information being thrown at us render many of us with hypersensitive nervous systems: any little thing will cause us stress. In other words we have constant sources of negative stress being fed to us at our jobs, in our homes and on our screens and very little moments where we can truly access our conserve-and-restore processes governed by the parasympathic nervous system.

This how yoga works: It’s able to give us lowered heart rate and blood pressure and the overall feeling of “ ahh,” by accessing our parasympathic responses.


How a Restorative Practice Helps Achieve the Benefits of Yoga

A yoga practice where you are breathing heavily and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure can be a very good thing for those of us who need aerobic activity. But we also must remember that we will not get the full benefits of yoga if our breathing is unsteady or if we’re adding more negative stress to our bodies. (Though I will not doubt that the experienced sages of yoga probably could float through chataranga up to handstand while maintaining a steady heart rate but that, my friends, is not me… or many of us for that matter.)

This is why restorative yoga can be such a gem. Many of us already go to the gym, run around and get our heart rates up all day. Very rarely do we allot one hour of our day to gentle movements, slow, relaxed breathing and deep relaxation. Many times we’re so caught up in doing something productive: “I have to lose weight, read that article, watch that show.” We’re always taking in. The restorative yoga class exists to allow us to not take in but rather let out. To find those positions that truly make our body feel good and cared for and to coax ourselves away from running in fight-or-flight mode. In a restorative class we tell our bodies and our minds, “It’s okay, you can relax. I’m giving you the space to just be.”

The even greater thing about all of this is that studies also show that you can receive the benefits of yoga by practicing posture, breathing, and meditation for one hour once a week. Seriously. Once a week. Of course, the more that we give ourselves this time in a week, the better we will get at being able to access this relaxation.

Just know that we don’t have to give up our vigorous vinyasa practice or our intense cardio sessions. We certainly don’t have to start wearing linen harm pants and quit our jobs to move to ashrams. We simply have to give ourselves the space to access the parts of our mind and body that truly want us to have peace. Because in the same way that activity propels us forward, so does rest. It’s science.


I invite you to join me on Monday mornings at 7:30am for a Restorative Flow class in which we practice slow, restorative postures, breathing exercises and deep relaxation techniques. Sanctuary Yoga also offers restorative classes in the evenings on Tuesdays at 8:00pm & 9:15pm and Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:15pm.

About Jessica Marquez:

I live to nurture, I live to teach, I live to create and I live to heal. Born and raised on the border of Texas and Mexico, I have lived in Barcelona to study art, San Francisco, and New York City where I studied Sustainable Architecture. After a couple of years of battling debilitating anxiety and the high stress that comes with living in this body on this earth, I left my prospective career, at first, with much resistance. I used yoga to help heal myself. Through teaching yoga I have found immense peace and fulfillment. As I lead others in yoga, I always come from a place of the true intention of yoga: to eliminate suffering. Whether the suffering be in our bodies or our mind, I use the postures of yoga, breathing exercises and methods for deep relaxation to help coax the mind-body out of any pain or discomfort.

Acro Yoga

Posted on: October 30th, 2013
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Acro Yoga is coming back to Sanctuary Yoga!

This class is suitable for all levels, and is the perfect place to start your Acro yoga adventure. Dani has studied with some of the best teachers in the world, and continues to expand her knowledge of the practice through immersions, intensives, and trainings. In this weekly class you will be challenged in ways that will strengthen not only your body, but your ability to connect and work with others. No partner is required!! Just show up ready to play, with focus and intention.

Acro Yoga will be back starting November 5th at 6:00pm!

Here are some of the things we will work on:

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 4.59.19 PM

New Class: Meditation with Yoga

Posted on: August 13th, 2013
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Buddha Meditation TreeEast meets West now that cutting edge neuroscience shines light on the benefits of ancient Chinese and Indian wisdom.  Restorative yoga and meditation stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, retrain neural pathways to fire positive instead of negative, lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and decrease stress.

Each class has a different meditation theme and focus, with a restorative flow asana practice building up to the sitting.  René Love makes meditating fun and accessible, so if you’ve been wanting to build a personal practice but find the idea daunting, this class will be welcoming for you.  There are so many different types of meditation, just as effective as a Zen/Vipassana sit, but a little easier to get into.  We’ll learn all kinds of pranayama, physical positioning, and visualizations that decrease cortisol, and stimulate more mellow brain wave frequencies.

Meditation and yoga are the antidote for pretty much everything we need an antidote for.  They help us get control of our lives, restore balance, increase well-being, de-stress and increase energy.  Many of the meditations we’ll cover are somatic focused, so it’s not just about getting to know the nature of mind, but getting to know the nature of body!! Want to be able to listen to your body’s wisdom and feel body gratitude?  We’ll learn amazing meditations that re-connect you with your physical body.  Develop internal balance and strength through this fabulous practice.

See you on Wednesdays from 5-6 and Thursdays from 1:30-2:30 starting 8/21!

ReneRené is a graduate of the Living Yoga Program in Austin, TX, where she specialized in restorative yoga and meditation.  She is certified at the CYT-200 hour level, including 50 hours of study at Dharma Yoga and the Austin Zen Center.  Additionally, René brings over 250 hours of formal training in body work from Texas Healing Arts Institute in Austin, and was certified in First Aid, CPR, and AED.  Along with corporate yoga, René teaches “Yoga for Lawyers” for the University of Texas School of Law professors, staff, and students.  The Love Wellness style of blending restorative yoga with core strengthening involves cutting edge neuroscience in meditation, is proved to increase concentration and positivity, and leaves practitioners invigorated, relaxed, and focused.